Cal Poly grad adjusting to life as a pro tennis player

Andre Dome was the Big West Player of the Year twice while playing at Cal Poly.
Andre Dome was the Big West Player of the Year twice while playing at Cal Poly.

Life on the road took some getting used to for Andre Dome.

The tennis standout was accustomed to the comforts of what he called “SLO life” while starring at both Arroyo Grande High and Cal Poly.

Then things got really fast really quick when the 24-year-old turned professional in 2013.

“The first year was really tough because college was completely different,” Dome said Saturday while competing in the Vince Dente Memorial Tournament at the Avila Bay Athletic Complex. “I had a coach who took care of everything, all the travel and stuff.

“Now, I’m doing everything. I’ve got to book the hotel, book the flights and things like that, so that’s a different animal right there.”

The 2013 All-American celebrated his first professional tournament victory earlier this month, when he won the second of three tournaments at the Thailand Futures Championships. Dome called the 6-4, 6-7 (7), 6-1 title win over Japan’s Akira Santillan a monkey off his back and more of a mental boost than anything.

“It’s good for my confidence,” he said. “Now I know I’m able to do it, and now I just have to keep it going.”

Perseverance is key for life in the pros, Dome said, and he’s learning that lesson with every tournament he plays.

For example, he was forced to withdraw from the third Thailand tournament after he collided with a pole in his opening-round match and bruised a nerve in his forearm.

Yes, it was difficult to forfeit the very next match after winning a title, but there was no lasting damage done and he’ll be able to continue his season, which will run until December.

“You play a lot of matches; you lose a lot and you just have to regroup,” Dome said. “If you lose one week, you have to get ready in three or four days for the next one.

“You’ve got to deal with it mentally. I can’t get as upset at losses anymore. I just have to learn from them.”

And although modern technology helps keep him in touch with his family and support structure, Dome said he had to learn to deal with the losses on his own.

“If I lose in Asia, my parents are sleeping,” he said. “You can’t really talk to them. That’s how it is. You’ve got to keep going, and just keep moving forward.”

Dome is ranked 708th on the ATP World Tour and said an attainable goal by year’s end is to be inside the top 500. He’ll head to tournaments in Mexico and Canada in the coming months, always stopping back in the Central Coast to train in a familiar environment.

“You have to pick and choose where you play and where you take time off,” Dome said, “because you can’t really stay on the road too long. It’d be really tough on the body, and really tough on the mind.”

Dome, who was the Big West Player of the Year twice after missing the majority of his sophomore year after hip surgery, said he does most of his training on his own because he wants to keep himself personally accountable. He recently started doing yoga as a way to strengthen his core and increase flexibility, and in a sport like tennis that’s as much mental as physical, yoga has also helped Dome stay calm on the court.

“It always talks about breathing and breathing in really tough positions,” he said. “I’ve translated that to tennis. If I’m in a tough spot, I’ve just got to breathe and get my mind in the right state, and then you can do whatever you want.”

A tough spot is where Dome found himself Saturday in the first set of his quarterfinal match with Miles Seemann of Santa Ynez and UC Santa Barbara. Seemann broke Dome early to go ahead 3-1 and led 5-4 before Dome and his two-handed forehand reeled off three straight games to win 7-5 and then take the second set 6-1.

Dome is seeded second in the bracket, which concludes with the final at 11 a.m. Monday, and he brought along the guy seeded first — Finn Tearney.

Tearney, from New Zealand, is ranked 674th in the world and played in the futures tournaments with Dome in Thailand.

Competitors on the court and in the world rankings, Dome said making friends with fellow professionals is a necessity to road living.

“You can’t just stay in your own bubble,” he said. “You want to make friends with the guys you’re playing because you never know, they can always help you.”

Dome is 23-26 overall in ITF Futures matches and has won 11 of 17 this season — tangible progress that serves as both reassurance and motivation.

“I didn’t know if my training was correct because I wasn’t having any results,” Dome said of the past two years. “And now I can see results, so I know what I need to do to keep improving.

“Win or lose, just keep trying to get better, and hopefully in six months, you’re better than you were six months ago, and in a year, you’re better than a year ago.”